We Don’t Do This. Intimacy, Norms, and Fantasies in Baltic Art

We Don’t Do This. Intimacy, Norms, and Fantasies in Baltic Art

MO Museum

Jurij Kozyrev, From the Collection of Sandra Straukaitė. Photo Session at Jūrmala Beach, Latvia, 1992. Digital print, 20 × 30 cm. Courtesy of Bruno Birmanis.

March 11, 2024
We Don’t Do This. Intimacy, Norms, and Fantasies in Baltic Art
March 9–September 8, 2024
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The MO Museum has the pleasure to present We Don’t Do This. Intimacy, Norms, and Fantasies in Baltic Art. Bringing together a diverse range of works drawn from museum and private collections, as well as new commissions, this exhibition focuses on gender depictions and relations in visual art of the Baltic region from the 1960s to the present.

Sexuality is a central part of human life, as are desires, fantasies, gender, and the relationships we form. No less widespread is the wish to impose control over these facets of life. The exhibition borrows its title from an eponymously titled drawing by Česlovas Lukenskas from 1984—Šito pas mus nėra (“We Don’t Do This”). Lukenskas’ statement anticipated the famous 1986 tele-bridge between the USSR and the United States, where a woman on the Soviet side remarked that there was no sex in Soviet TV commercials. Since Stalin, the USSR was famously anti-sexual: Sexuality-related content and discussions were widely censored from the public for decades. The exhibition asks why sex was so suppressed and what kind of love was allowed. 

Through new research in Baltic art collections, re-interpretations of art historical narratives, and by following recent academic writing on sexual culture in the Baltics, this exhibition explores how different the region’s public notions of intimacy, gender, love, and sexuality are today. How much force do the dreams of the Soviet period still possess and how have national aims related to sexuality changed over time?

The exhibition highlights the aestheticized nudes and lofty representations of romance in the 1960s and 1970s, the freeing and hyper-normative trends of the 1990s and 2000s, and the critical interventions of artists working today. Examining figuration in painting, sculpture, drawing, among other media, We Don’t Do This revisits canonical artworks, engaging them in dialogues with lesser-known works from different generations and countries. A number of works resist the pressures of their era, with artists diverging from the visuality of official discourses and an inherited patriarchal imagination. Arranging works in thematic clusters, the exhibition presents an array of both intimate, and normative representations or fantasies of gender, family, and sexuality, marked by the back-and-forth loosening and re-enforcement of norms throughout the Soviet era and beyond. 

We Don’t Do This suggests that the fight for political freedom did not always automatically result in social and sexual freedoms of equal rights to pleasure, safety, and love. Queerness, which lives in everyday realities, on the streets and in social media, as well as in new scholarship in gender studies, supports a critical look at the heteronormativity of the Soviet past as well as of the neoliberal present. New commissions by contemporary artists Kadi Estland, Saša Kochan, Janina Sabaliauskaitė, and Konstantin Zhukov suggest that today in the Baltics there is more space for resistance and deviation from social conventions than during any period in the past. If we were to rethink the exhibition’s catchphrase, perhaps it prompts us to ask how we could be intimate, fantasize, and form relationships differently? 

The MO Museum is the largest private museum in Lithuania, housing one of the biggest private collections of Lithuanian modern and contemporary art. The MO Museum was established in 2009 as a private, not-for-profit institution, and it functioned as a museum without walls for almost a decade. In 2018, a modern and contemporary art museum in Vilnius designed by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind was opened. MO aims to build and foster a strong community through engaging exhibitions, novel education, and inclusive cultural programming.

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MO Museum
March 11, 2024

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